My father has always been my hero. His story is the classic American story of pulling oneself up by the bootstraps, working hard and enjoying the fruits of America’s free market system.
In 1968, after he was laid off from his job as an electrician, Dad started his own electrical contracting business, literally out of the trunk of his car. Today, he’s a successful businessman — and believe me, he has earned every bit of his success.
His attitude has always been that he’d be damned before anyone took his business away from him. In an email exchange with me about how right-to-work South Carolina is far preferable to non-right-to-work states, Dad explained how the unions once tried to muscle into his business at the height of his success:
In the 80s when our business was big, 240 employees, 2 planes, worked in 3 states, they tried to get in my door and others. We had a strong Open Shop policy among many major local electrical contractors … Unions [were] losing ground in every direction. I had always said I would close my shop if it were to go union [and] I presided over the [Associated Independent Electrical Contractors of America] Charleston Chapter for 3 years. We operated Merit Shop … we did not believe all should get same pay and benefits, just on years of service alone. We left room for advancement based on personal performance … merit … it works and I still have dedicated employees today.
Dad added, “The country should run that way.”
He’s right. Before I became a conservative political pundit, I worked for my father’s company in the field — digging ditches, running conduit and wire, installing electrical equipment, you name it. I did this off-and-on throughout high school and for a solid eight-year stretch later in life. Most of the job foremen at the various construction sites where I worked were men I had known since I was a child. They were hard workers and good people, and because they were always treated accordingly, they were always there. Some are still there. And my father would be the first to admit it would be hard, if not impossible, to run his business without these talented and dedicated workers. “Merit” pays.
But the very notion of a union coming in and telling Dad how to run his business: Who he can hire, fire, where he can work, where he can’t and all the other dictatorial aspects characteristic of organized labor — this is anathema to anyone who has managed to build their own American dream from scratch. Of course, at various times in this country’s history, unions have done some good, protecting workers and correcting injustices. But today, unions mostly damage the states and industries in which they hold sway, precisely because they demand far too much while offering comparatively little in return.
By their very nature, most modern unions are top-heavy bureaucracies that reward members based on longevity and seniority, not necessarily quality and merit. The results of such a system are often disastrous. What the United Auto Workers have done to the automobile industry in Detroit and elsewhere is a perfect example. So is what teachers’ unions have done to public education. So is what the National Labor Relations Board has been trying to do to Boeing in South Carolina, where unions are attempting to take away merit-based jobs for those in my home state and give them to organized labor in Washington state — simply because working in cahoots with the federal government allows them to do so.